Friday, December 5, 2008

Vodka = Great Pie

Who knew that vodka could be useful beyond tasty, intoxicating beverages? I started reading a lot about the Cookies Illustrated recipe from November of 2007 for great, flaky pie crust that used vodka. Vodka?! Really? Now this I had to try.

I really like making pie crust. It's something that I didn't learn growing up but had always wanted to give a try. A couple of years ago I finally decided to give it a go and anticipated ending up with a floury mess of crumbling dough. Instead, I ended up with a great dough that was very easy to work with. My first few pies did suffer from too-thin-crustitis, making it difficult to cut slices. I soon learned that making, perhaps, 1 1/2 times the recipe for a little extra "cushion" was incredibly helpful.

Since I don't make pies very often, I've never really experimented with different crust recipes. But since the crust is my favorite part, and I happened to have a bottle of vodka in the freezer, I figured I would test run this recipe. And it's fabulous!! So great to work with, incredibly flaky and just slightly sweet without being over the top. I made an orange cranberry apple pie. I really just threw a lot of ingredients in a bowl and went from there, so the orange was a little overpowering. But no matter, I was really making it for the crust!

Foolproof Pie Dough
Cooks Illustrated, November 2007
Makes enough for one 9-inch double-crust pie
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small bits
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). If you don't like using the food processor simply use your pastry cutter instead. That what I did - I like to get my hands dirty!
Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Cranberry, Apple & Orange Pie with Oatmeal Streusel
Recipe by Lazy Susin
4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
Zest of 1/2 of an orange
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chopped
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup light brown sugar

After your apples are prepped, combine with the cranberries and orange zest. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Feel free to add more cinnamon or even nutmeg if you want more of a spice presence.
Mix the dry ingredients with the fruit and make sure the flour gets worked in. Add the fruit mixture to the prepared pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate.
In a medium-sized bowl, add the unsalted butter, brown sugar and oatmeal. Using a pastry cutter, combine the ingredients until it's a crumbly mixture.
Distribute the streusel topping evenly over the pie crust.
Bake in a 425-degree oven for around 40 minutes, or until the apples are soft and slightly bubbling. Bake with the crust covered with foil, removing for the last 15 minutes of baking. Let cool and enjoy!

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